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Broccoli Cheddar Rice Casserole (No Canned Soup)

Broccoli cheddar rice casserole all from scratch is delicious and easy to adjust for your diet. Make it gluten free with my easy swaps or keep it classic for a rich recipe with less canned mystery ingredients.

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I bet you’ve had a bad broccoli cheddar rice casserole or three in your life. I know they can be disappointing but take courage–this one is tested, tried and true.

If you’d like to make it a full meal add some chopped cooked chicken and serve it up.

Why make this casserole from scratch? 

I know it can feel like a big ask to make the condensed soup for this recipe (you’re welcome to buy a can at the store) but I promise the flavor and quality difference is so worth it. Plus you can make the soup several days in advance.

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    You’ll be able to control the ingredients and final quality and can adjust for gluten or dairy free needs, too.

    If you don’t want to make your soup from scratch

    Limited on time? It happens to everyone! It’s ok to cut a corner or two. This recipe calls for a homemade condensed cream of celery soup, but feel free to sub a store-bought version.

    If you are going this route, do your body a favor and aim for an organic product with little to no additives. 

    Do I need to cook the rice first? What rice is best?

    This recipe does not include enough extra liquid to cook the rice in the baking process, so it is essential to cook your rice before combining it with the remainder of the ingredients and baking your casserole.

    An added benefit of cooking your rice beforehand is that you will not encounter an excess amount of gluey starch in your finished product. Nobody wants that.

    When it comes to choosing rice, aim for a long grain such as basmati and be sure to rinse it thoroughly to avoid stickiness!

    Short grain rices like arborio for example tend to contain more starch, yielding a gluier finished product.

    Looking to save some time? There is no shame in pulling out some quick cooking rice (no need to rinse here) or using leftover rice that you have cooked a day or two in advance.

    Want to add a unique spin? Wild rice can be super fun in this recipe, but a word of caution…wild rice takes a LONG time to cook, so only go this route if you have an hour to cook it separately first, or have some already made. 

    Use good cheese for bold flavor

    Cheese really brings this dish together, so be sure to select a quality ingredient.

    I suggest steering clear of pre-grated cheese and opting to grate your own from a block. Pre-grated cheeses often have anti-caking agents added to them, which can make your casserole clump or look grainy. 

    Does broccoli need to be cooked before adding to the casserole? 

    My recipe calls for frozen chopped broccoli. In this case, there is no need to cook it before adding to the mix as it has already been blanched and steamed.

    That being said, if you have some fresh broccoli on hand and want to utilize that, awesome! You will need to give it a quick steam to al dente before chopping, though. 

    Note: Pre-chopped frozen broccoli is hard to find these days. If you can’t get it, just by frozen florets, let them thaw then lightly chop them in a food processor to just break down the big pieces. Don’t puree it!

    How to make broccoli cheddar rice casserole step by step

    Once you have your cream of celery soup made, add it to a big bowl along with all the other ingredients except the rice.

    ingredients for broccoli casserole with rice and cheese in a bowl before mixing
    A bowl of broccoli casserole being mixed without rice added

    Step 2: Once it’s stirred together, add the rice and gently mix it in just until combined. You don’t want to break it up.

    A bowl of broccoli casserole with rice being added

    Step 3: Transfer the mixture to a 9×13 baking dish. I haven’t found it necessary to butter it first, but you can if you want to. Top with crushed crackers if you want to use them and dots of butter.

    You could wrap and refrigerate at this point to bake later. Leave off the crackers and it will hold for 3-5 days in the fridge.

    a dish of broccoli cheddar rice casserole on a table with crushed crackers and cold butter

    Can broccoli rice casserole be made in advance?

    Yes! Most casseroles hold up well to storage. In fact, many even get better when they are made ahead due to the fact that all of the flavors have a moment to blend together.

    Prepare broccoli cheddar rice casserole up to 3 days in advance (leave off the crispy toppings such as ritz crackers and/or cornflakes) and refrigerate.

    Make sure to store your casserole in an airtight container, such as a glass baking dish with an airtight lid or covered tightly with plastic wrap. When you are ready to bake, add your crispy toppings and toss the casserole in the oven.

    Baking in glass? Know this!

    If you made your casserole ahead and refrigerated it, you could shatter your glass or ceramic baking dish if you go right from the fridge to a hot oven. Instead, place the cold dish in a cold oven, then turn on the heat and bake until bubbly.

    Can broccoli rice casserole be frozen?  

    Just as they do well in the refrigerator, most casseroles (including this one) do well in the freezer. Simply prepare my recipe up to the point of baking, wrap well, and store in your freezer.

    Do not add the ritz crackers and/or corn flakes until you are ready to bake.

    When the time comes to cook this delicious casserole, remove it from the freezer and allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Day of, sprinkle it with your crispy toppings and bake!

    How to reheat broccoli rice casserole

    This is a great leftovers dish so feel free to make a batch, enjoy some fresh out of the oven, and reheat the next day.

    I recommend preheating your oven to 350 degrees F and baking for 15-20 minutes until the casserole comes out steaming.

    You can also use the microwave, just portion out the amount you would like and pop in the microwave until hot. This should take around 1-2 minutes, depending on the size of the portion and the power of your microwave.

    a baking dish of casserole with a scoop out and a spoon in the dish

    Broccoli Cheddar Rice Casserole

    Make this classic even better with no canned soups and see how the flavor shines!
    Prep Time 35 minutes
    Cook Time 30 minutes
    Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
    Servings 10 people
    Author Rachel Ballard

    Ingredients
      

    For the cream of celery soup

    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1/2 cup celery finely diced; you can puree it if you don't want it chunky (See note 1)
    • 1/3 cup yellow onion diced
    • 1/2 garlic clove finely minced
    • 1/4 cup flour gluten free works (See note 2)
    • 1/2 cup half and half
    • 1/2 cup chicken broth
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt (See note 3)

    For the casserole

    • 1 1/2 cups cream of celery soup or a 10 ounce can of store bought
    • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
    • 1/4 cup milk
    • 24 ounces frozen broccoli thawed and roughly chopped (See note 4)
    • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese (See note 5)
    • 2 cups basmati rice already cooked; measure after cooking
    • 2 cups crushed Ritz crackers optional
    • 2 tablespoons butter cold, cut into chunks

    Instructions
     

    Make the cream of celery soup

    • In a medium pot, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the celery and onions and cook until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant; 30 seconds to a minute.
    • Add the flour and stir to combine. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly; make sure you don't see any pockets of raw flour.
    • Add the half and half and broth and stir to combine. Stir constantly until the mixture bubbles and thickens enough to hold a line on the back of a spoon 4 to 5 minutes.
    • Taste for seasoning and add the salt.
    • Set this mixture aside until needed or cool and store in the refrigerator for up to three days.

    Assemble the casserole

    • Preheat the oven to 400.
    • In a large bowl add the cream of celery soup, mayonnaise, milk, broccoli and cheese. Stir to combine.
    • Add the rice and stir gently until barely incorporated; don't break the rice too much.
    • Transfer the mixture to a 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle over the Ritz crackers if using.
    • Dot with cold butter. Bake 30-35 minutes until hot and bubbly.

    Notes

    Note 1: The celery is really key here. If you need to hide the texture, add it to a food processor and blend until it’s finely pureed and proceed with the recipe.
    Note 2: A gluten free flour blend like Cup 4 Cup or King Arthur’s baking blend would work great here. Remember Cup 4 Cup has dairy in it in case you also need to avoid that. 
    Note 3: The amount of salt you’ll need will vary greatly depending on how salty your stock/broth is. Taste your soup and adjust salt as needed. Sea salt is also less salty than table salt. Add half of the salt, taste and then add the remaining half. If you still need more just keep adding until the desired flavor is achieved. 
    Note 4: It’s impossible to find the bricks of chopped frozen broccoli anymore. If you can’t, just get a bag of frozen and let it thaw then use a knife or food processor to roughly chop it. Just a pulse or three in the food processor will do it. If using fresh, it will need to be steamed and chopped before proceeding. 
    Note 5: Buy a block of cheddar and grate it yourself. Never use pre-shredded. It clumps and gets gluey when melted.  

    Nutrition

    Serving: 0.75cupCalories: 477kcalCarbohydrates: 54gProtein: 13gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 44mgSodium: 633mgPotassium: 456mgFiber: 4gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 3933IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 239mgIron: 2mg
    Tried this recipe?Tag us on Instagram @feastandfarm and hashtag it #feastandfarm
    Course Side Dish
    Cuisine American
    Keyword broccoli cheddar rice casserole

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